Speaker assures non-partisanship while executing his responsibilities

Speaker assures non-partisanship while executing his responsibilities

Some past sessions have witnessed favoritism and partiality exercised by default

From modest beginnings, this Member of Parliament (MP) from Panbang constituency rose to the most coveted seat in the National Assembly (NA)-the Speaker. The Speaker presides over the NA sessions and is the custodian and enforcer of the rules for the orderly conduct of the proceedings, signs bills passed by the Lower House, represents the NA in its relations with the Druk Gyalpo, the Executive and the Judiciary, and establishes inter-parliamentary relations.

As he embarks on shouldering a gargantuan responsibility august to the serene hall of the Gyalyong Tshogkhang, the current Speaker of the NA, Lungten Dorji of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) shares a light moment with Business Bhutan.

 BB: Your feelings on being elected as the Speaker of NA?

Speaker: I was profoundly surprised by the overwhelming trust and confidence bestowed upon me by the absolute majority of the members of the National Assembly. Additionally, I am deeply humbled by the trust extended to me by the Honorable Prime Minister of Bhutan, who, as the President of People’s Democratic Party nominated my candidacy for the esteemed post of the Speaker. I consider this position a tremendous responsibility, and I am fully committed to ensuring that parliament’s main roles of legislation, representation, and oversight are carried out diligently and effectively.

BB: How do you find yourself fit for the position?

Speaker: While I do not possess extensive working experience in the parliament, I did have the opportunity to attend a few sessions of the National Assembly from 2006-2007 as a Dzongdag and government representative from Trongsa Dzongkhag during the pre-democracy period. With nearly 30 years of service in the government, including 12 years in local governments, I believe that with my sincere effort, a willingness to learn, and by leveraging the expertise of the parliamentary staff and the support of members, I am hopeful that I can gradually gain a firm understanding of the responsibilities of this role.

BB: What is the role of a Speaker?

Speaker: The role of the Speaker within the legislative body is rooted in the constitutional duty as the head of one of the three key branches of the government. Despite nomination from the ruling party, once elected, the Speaker is mandated to uphold non-partisanship in executing the responsibilities. Central to the Speaker’s function is the impartial interpretation of parliament’s rules, regulations, ensuring fairness and equity while maintaining and preserving order in the house, and safeguarding the rights and privileges of the members.

In addition to presiding over the sessions of the National Assembly and joint sessions of parliament, the Speaker assumes the leadership over the administration of the National Assembly providing overall strategic direction and management. As the representative of the National Assembly, the Speaker is required to undertake a spectrum of traditional, ceremonial and diplomatic duties, embodying the high institution’s essence and extending its presence both domestically and internationally.

BB: What steps you will take to make the NA more effective?

Speaker: With the support from the secretariat and members, the National Assembly shall strive to cultivate a conducive environment, providing ample resources and building capacity to effectively fulfill its core functions of legislation, representation, and oversight. It is imperative that parliamentarians are equipped not only with the necessary knowledge but also embody virtues such as unwavering loyalty and steadfast patriotism to the Tsa-Wa-Sum. As the voice of their constituents, members must champion the people’s interests with integrity, commitment and full participation.

BB: How will you balance your dual role as an MP (Panbang) and as the Speaker?

Speaker: In discharging the duties of the Speaker, it is imperative that I also advocate for and ensure the fulfillment of the pledges I have made to my constituents. This entails actively working to integrate these pledges into the plans of both central and local governments. To accomplish this, I commit to conducting periodic visits to my constituency and following up on the progress, in close consultation with the relevant officials. Through sustained engagement and collaboration, I endeavor to uphold my commitment to representing and advancing the interests of those I pledged to serve.

BB: How will you work with the National Council?

Speaker: Under the bicameral system of our parliament, the National Assembly and National Council, alongside the institution of Druk Gyalpo, are entrusted with fostering collaboration, checks and balances in the legislative processes.

The National Assembly symbolizes the collective wisdom and national conscience of the country – representing the will of the people of Bhutan. Conversely, the National Council serves as the house of review, offering expertise and scrutiny to the legislative process.

As the Speaker, I will collaborate and work closely with the Chairperson of the National Council on matters of mutual interest of both the Houses.

BB: What will be your priorities in the House?

Speaker: Parliamentary procedures are meticulously defined for conducting sessions and upholding order and decorum within the houses. In the pursuit of maintaining order, the Speaker assumes the responsibility of interpreting and implementing the standing orders and practices of the house through the formulation of rules and decisions. Furthermore, the Speaker relies on the recommendations put forth by the standing committees concerning bills, policies, and laws under deliberation, ensuring a balanced and informed approach to governance.

One priority at the moment is to ensure that all newly elected members are equipped with both the hardware and software components necessary to fulfill their significant responsibilities in legislation, representation, and oversight. This entails conducting a series of orientation and exposure programs aimed at preparing them to carry out their roles effectively.

Second priority is to get the standing committees working to effectively prepare for the first session of the Fourth Parliament which will be held in May/June 2024.

By Sangay Rabten, Thimphu